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Localized flooding possible this year, says Okanagan-Similkameen regional district

Weather conditions at Osoyoos, B.C., on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. The regional district says residents living in areas impacted by flooding recently should have a preparedness plan in place.
Weather conditions at Osoyoos, B.C., on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. The regional district says residents living in areas impacted by flooding recently should have a preparedness plan in place. Global News

Live in the South Okanagan or Similkameen? Think ahead by having an emergency plan, just in case flooding hits your neighbourhood this year.

That’s according to the Okanagan-Similkameen regional district, which issued a press release on Saturday following news that snowpack levels in the Okanagan are above normal.

Also this week, an Oliver, B.C., man voiced concerns about those same high snowpack levels and how potential spring flooding could wipe out the road he lives on for the second time in three years.

READ MORE: With above-average snowpack levels, Oliver resident worries flooding will wipe out road, again

“The Regional of the Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) is advising property owners to be aware of the possibility of localized flooding due to freshet, in the coming months,” said the regional district’s press release.

“As of Feb. 1, the snowpack across the South Okanagan was 129 per cent of average values for this time of year. As a result, there remains a risk of flooding due to rainfall events.

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“Residents living in areas impacted by flooding in recent years should have a preparedness plan in place.”

The regional district added that it and provincial staff will continue to monitor snow conditions and lake levels.

Concern over high snowpack in the Okanagan
Concern over high snowpack in the Okanagan

“The province will respond as necessary to manage lake and river levels through winter and spring,” said the regional district.

“The province has noted higher-than-average snowpack, and staff have initiated higher flows out of Okanagan Lake. This is being done to lower the lake level in advance of the spring snowmelt period and to reduce potential flood risks.”

The regional district added that snow levels are only one indicator of spring freshet flood risks and that other factors include heavy rain and periods of warm weather causing rapid snowmelt.

Further, the regional district said property owners are responsible for protecting their property.

“In British Columbia, property owners are responsible for taking the necessary steps on their property to protect their home and property from flooding, while government emergency programs focus on broader flood response measures,” said the regional district.

“The RDOS will provide sand and sandbags for property owners as needed, in addition to information about sandbag placement.”

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Severe rain causes flooding, evacuations in western Washington state
Severe rain causes flooding, evacuations in western Washington state

The RDOS also offered tips on protecting property from flooding.

  • Determine potential sources of flooding that may impact your property.
  • Act early. Preparing flood protection takes time and requires manual labour.
  • Protect the most important areas such as your home or areas where the greatest damage may occur.
  • Avoid working alone around flowing water, use proper safety equipment and techniques to avoid injury.
  • Sandbagging is labour intensive and physically demanding work.
  • Work with your neighbours; coordinating work with adjacent properties may provide more effective flood defenses.
  • Properties with routine flooding may wish to invest in improved flood defences that can be quickly deployed and are less labour intensive to put in place than sandbags.
  • The RDOS does not deliver sand or sandbags to private residences or businesses.
  • Filled sandbags are not available from the RDOS.